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Archive for the ‘Pratt/MFA Thesis’ Category

Hey guys – this is my last thesis-related post (I promise) … and why the last?? This week I turn in everything signed-seal-delivered to Pratt. It’s been quite a drawn-out process but I guess that’s to be expected trying to finish and thesis and working full-time. But in the end, I’m so happy with how everything turned out. I spent the last few weeks designing my thesis book and I’m thrilled with how it looks. I’m going to post a few of the spreads in this post, but you can flip through the entire book here. I’ve also spent a bunch of time tweaking my website and trying to polish it up, check out the progress at dcwdesign.com

So now that my Pratt MFA thesis is done – it’s time to plan for the next 5 years. I was talking a few weeks ago about how everything I’ve done post-Appalachian was to get me to this point, living/working in NYC with my masters. So what’s next? I’ve had an amazing job these last few months so I’m off to a great start. I’d also like to start creating my own work again and possibly send another round of letters out for The Joy Project. So lots on the horizon, lots of things simmering in the kitchen – stay tuned to what comes next!

Joy, Delight and Growth: Harnessing the Power of Joy in Design
by Daniel Wiggins

In order to strive for a remarkable life, you have to decide that you want one. -Debbie Millman

Maira Kalman spread about And the Pursuit of Happiness.

Spread with my poster for the United Nations Youth Pre-Conference,
Summer 2010.

The Joy Project spread.

10 Things I Did in 2010 (need to work on the 2011 version of this!)

Take your pleasure seriously -Charles & Ray Eames.

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Hey everybody – awesome news! I’m featured in the 2011-2012 Pratt Institute Graduate Bulletin (aka catalog)!! I guess you can say I’ve come full circle. Wasn’t too long ago I was a bright-eyed design student at Appalachian State University dreaming of moving to New York and studying Communication Design at Pratt. I remember looking at the catalog years ago thinking .. if only I could get into Pratt. And three short years later my work is featured in their bulletin for new prospective students!

Also this week I’m printing and submitting in my final thesis paper and book. Now that my Pratt chapter is wrapping up it’s time to start planning for the next 5 years. My next project is reworking parts of my website (www.dcwdesign.com) and then it’s time to start making big post-school moves in 2012. Wish me luck – and best of luck to everyone in the new year!

Here’s the project that’s featured in Pratt’s 2011-2012 Graduate Bulletin. My Sophronia project based on Italo Calvino’s Invisible Cities book.

Front of double-sided poster/mailer.

Calender of events detail.

Fold out poster advertising Sophronia – half circus, half “real” city.

Voter card for Sophronia.

:: And coming soon ::

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The end is finally in sight. Above is a photo of the newsprint posters I designed for This brings me joy: The Joy Project, which serves as the final project in my Pratt MFA Thesis. I’m trilled with how the posters turned out, despite last minute file issues when sending to the printer. I have over 1,000 of these posters, so if you’d like one, please let me know! The poster (above) opens further and larger discussing the project and giving opportunities for people to interact with the twitter account. I’ve started leaving these posters around the city, and will soon distribute all 1,000 of them.

After the newsprint poster was sent to the printer, I shifted ALL my focus to reworking my thesis paper – remember that? – the joyous 60+ page monster of a paper. After two weeks of work, I sent my totally reworked paper to my advisers, and now I’m patiently waiting for it to be accepted. As of now, I’m scheduled to defend on December 1st! So if all goes well, I should have all my final hurdles in completing this thesis done by the end of this week. So pray for me! I can’t even begin to tell you what a huge relief crossing these projects off my list has given me. I have so many ideas for all the projects I WANT to do, instead of HAVE TO finish, so in coming weeks I should have a bunch of new things in the works.

Before I wrap up this post – I wanted to share a GREAT source of inspiration I stumbled across in reworking my paper. I find the ideas of Bruce Mau to be very inspiring for what I’m trying to accomplish in my thesis, but they can apply to anyone really, designers and non-designers. Like Debbie Millman, I’m more interested in his ideas/approach to design than what he actually designs. As I say in my paper, “In my thesis, I’m investigating the power of joy and delight to grow as a designer and creator. Joy is an opportunity and has the power to transform and empower. This sense of empowerment can take countless applications, especially in design.” The ideas of Mau are a great example of a designer focused on the subject of growth, and an important precedent in my paper … so I wanted to share his ideas with you!

“An Incomplete Manifesto for Growth”

Written in 1998, the Incomplete Manifesto is an articulation of statements exemplifying Bruce Mau’s beliefs, strategies and motivations. Collectively, they are how we approach every project.

  1. Allow events to change you. You have to be willing to grow. Growth is different from something that happens to you. You produce it. You live it. The prerequisites for growth: the openness to experience events and the willingness to be changed by them.
  2. Forget about good. Good is a known quantity. Good is what we all agree on. Growth is not necessarily good. Growth is an exploration of unlit recesses that may or may not yield to our research. As long as you stick to good you’ll never have real growth.
  3. Process is more important than outcome. When the outcome drives the process we will only ever go to where we’ve already been. If process drives outcome we may not know where we’re going, but we will know we want to be there.
  4. Love your experiments (as you would an ugly child). Joy is the engine of growth. Exploit the liberty in casting your work as beautiful experiments, iterations, attempts, trials, and errors. Take the long view and allow yourself the fun of failure every day.
  5. Go deep. The deeper you go the more likely you will discover something of value.
  6. Capture accidents. The wrong answer is the right answer in search of a different question. Collect wrong answers as part of the process. Ask different questions.
  7. Study. A studio is a place of study. Use the necessity of production as an excuse to study. Everyone will benefit.
  8. Drift. Allow yourself to wander aimlessly. Explore adjacencies. Lack judgment. Postpone criticism.
  9. Begin anywhere. John Cage tells us that not knowing where to begin is a common form of paralysis. His advice: begin anywhere.
  10. Everyone is a leader. Growth happens. Whenever it does, allow it to emerge.

And here it is – the 1st page of the final paper, documenting my inquiry into joy … a year and a half in the making!

 

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” In order to strive for a remarkable life, you have to decide that you want one.
Because if you expect less, less is all you’re going to get.”
-Debbie Millman, Creative Mornings, February 2011. 

It should come as no surprise that I’m blogging about one of my design heroes Debbie Millman once again. Just this past week I was lucky enough to attend the launch party for her latest book, Brand Thinking and Other Noble Pursuits here in NYC. But that is not what inspired this post. For months I’ve had this idea marinating in my head about an aspirational post in response to graduating (or almost) with my Masters degree from Pratt, starting my design career in NYC and life in general. While the past few months haven’t panned out the way I envisioned in May, I’m beginning to see the pieces of my life falling into place. This summer I spent an amazing 7 weeks in Copenhagen learning about textile design in a place I’d never been, doing something I’d never done. Studying abroad seemed like something I’d never be able to do growing up, but it happened. I returned home and started a job as a designer for Starwood Hotels. In the coming weeks I’ll finish this all-consuming thesis that’s been on my mind for the last year. In many ways I’m exactly where I should be and I wanted to share some wisdom I learned along the way, especially for those in the process of getting to where you envision yourself to be. (I’ve also been watching a lot of Oprah lately, and her gospel is really speaking to me ..)

At the end of the spring I had this great idea of creating a list of tips for surviving your MFA thesis. Little did I know I myself would be in need of some of these same tips. As a current thesis student today, I don’t feel it’s the right time to create that list. BUT, I wanted to share some words of encouragement about life and working hard, because I feel that is something I so desperately lacked in my thesis journey. Weeks ago I started watching the show 1 Girl 5 Gays as I’d go to bed each night. Pretty mindless entertainment – mostly funny conversations about love and sex. One of the questions really struck me: What was your lowest point in the last year? Most of the people on the show talked about a break up, the loss of a friendship or family member, etc. All I could think about was school. I’ve spoken in great length about my struggles the last year at school and I’m still living with those struggles today as I’ve yet to finish. I think it’s important in life to acknowledge failure or set backs. It’s something people don’t really ever talk about, but I think it’s so important. Because it’s what we do in response to failure and set backs that define us. For the last year I’ve been spending my days and nights in an MFA program where I felt I never fit in. I always felt like I was battling for the legitimately of my ideas and my approach to design. That semester I received the lowest grades of my entire college career. A semester later, the day after graduation, I learned that I wouldn’t be in fact graduating as my thesis committee decided there was more work to be done. I was crushed. It was hands down my lowest point. I thought I could power through all the negative energy I was getting in school and win in the end. I didn’t.

The attainment of my MFA from Pratt is one of the hardest things I’ve done to this point. Never has a process created more fear, stress, and self-doubt within me. And that’s really a shame. In a design program we should be inspiring the next generation of designers through challenge and encouragement, not through fear. “You have ideas? Well we’re going to show you how to make them stronger.” I thought that’s what grad school was about. Not the case, or at least that wasn’t my experience. Recently a close friend reached out after a rough thesis critique. He said he was almost driven to tears as his ideas were ripped apart and dismissed. I’d been in that position several times, and it feels horrible. We (sometimes) put so much thought, effort, and heart into our work as designers, and to have it ripped apart can be devastating. It inspires fear and self-doubt. The night before I’d been listening to a Design Matters podcast where the speaker said, “Fear is the mortal enemy of innovation and happiness.” I felt so much fear my last year at Pratt, and I know many others did, that I second guessed everything I was doing. It was so unproductive. And it’s a horrible way to inspire students to go about creating work.

I want to balance this story with one of my highest points in the last year. While abroad in Copenhagen, each program awards a student with an academic/design award. I was lucky enough to win the award for textile design as student that best embraced the process and overall did a great job. That feeling of being recognized for the first time after a year full of self-doubt was an amazing feeling. After everything I’d been though, someone finally said good job. It made all the struggles of the past year worth it in some way, and powered me to move forward. So things brings me back to Debbie Millman and her countless words of wisdom. While you’re young and just starting out, “Don’t compromise” she says. “Now is the time to try and fail. Work as hard as you can, and harder than anyone else … and if you expect less, less is all you’re going to get.”


Many of these great pearls of wisdom came from a talk Debbie did for Creative Mornings back in February 2011. You can watch the entire presentation here. In this talk, Debbie shares her list of “The Top 10 Things I Wish I Knew When I Graduated College.” I saw this talk online and wanted to write down all 10 in a list to share. So here they are! What I love about Debbie is that she’s so open to share her life experiences with others. She is honest and thoughtful, and happens to be a designer. But I ultimately find myself more interested in what Debbie has to say about life and being a designer, than what she actually designs. That’s never been important to me, though I do love her work. So my hope is that you’ll read Debbie’s list of 10 things she wished she knew so that you’ll know them today, and they’ll inspire you for the road ahead. Whatever that road may be …

1. Design talent = operational excellence. Operational excellence is what it takes to operate a business or a service well. Therefore design talent is a basic point of entry.

2. Design is not about design. Design is about a whole lot of things that ultimately result in design. You need to have an encyclopedic knowledge of everything. Everything else (but design) is what fuels design.

3. Money is not about money. Sex is not about sex. If people really want something, they’ll figure out a way to pay for it. Period. If somebody tells you they don’t want something you’re selling because they can’t afford it, it’s a nice way of saying like don’t want to hire you or like you enough to spend the money. Or you have no convinced them that the value that you will provide will be valuable enough for them to pay for it.

4. Ideas are easy. Strategy is much harder. Strategy, or coming up with a unique point of difference for a product or idea is incredibly difficult. “Strategy is choosing to perform activities differently, or to perform distinctly different activities than rivals.” – Michael Porter, Harvard Business School . You need to know why you do what you do a nd be able to communicate that easily and effectively.  You need to know your mission, believe it, and communicate it.

5. Know what you’re talking about.  Tell the truth. Admit when you don’t know something. When you do, it allows someone to share something with you.

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In this post I’m going to give you a small peak into how I go about creating the visual responses that make up This brings me joy. The Joy Project.  The first time I read each letter I like to make sure I’m somewhere alone so I can truly reflect and connect with the person that wrote it. I generally read each letter a few times to decide which response is the most touching, original or would make the best visual response. The challenge with this round of postcards is that I don’t know the sender. Each letter was given to a friend of a friend so I’m designing for someone I don’t know. This is good and bad as I’m removed of prior knowledge of that person that ultimately informs the visual response I create them (it’s almost like cheating in a way). It’s also bad at the same time because I have no idea what they’ll like – and I’m hoping I’ll design something that strikes a cord. In the first round, I knew who wrote each letter and knew who I was designing for … and could use that to create something I knew they’d like.

In the example above “Dinah Washington” was listed as something that brings this person joy. I’m only vaguely familiar with the Swingin’ Miss D from her song “Relax, Max” that was used in a Double Tree commercial a few years ago. I liked the song so much from the commercial I downloaded it and Miss D now lives in my “Jazz/Oldies” playlist on iTunes. When thinking how to visualize the song and Dinah Washington, the tagline Relax, Max is so simple and bold, I knew a typographic solution could communicate the song, something bold yet playful. I played around with a couples versions in Illustrator below …

The music of the song makes me think of vintage neon sings, or multicolored letters on vintage record singles from the period.

I wanted to make the type look old so I was playing with adding a more yellow background to give it that vintage feel. But at this point it was just retro, and not retro-modern.

Above: After many tweaks, here is the final version! See it and 70 more here.

Here’s another example. The response I loved from this particular letter was, “the first kiss.” That’s something everyone can relate to and it certainly brings me joy, the excitement of that first kiss with a potential  mate. And here comes the challenge. I don’t know the person … who do they like to kiss? Boys? Girls? Is this a straight, gay, pan or a-sexual person?? Who could know?!? Therefore typography or images that aren’t too specific should be used. That way the receiver of this postcard, and anyone viewing this response within the project, can be free to interpret the statement “the first kiss” anyway they want. That is ultimately my goal with most of these responses, that any view can place themselves within the picture. Here is how the process worked for “the First Kiss.”

I started playing with the letters of the words “kissed”  and noticed the two “ss” would be fun to play with. I could reflect one ‘S’ so the letters themselves could kiss, thus freeing me from finding a photo of a kissing couple. Whew.

Then I arrived here (above), I love the type but it was looking a bit too Valentine’s day …

I decided to go through my iTunes and look for songs that dealt with the subject matter. The words “and then we kissed” kept coming to mind which are lyrics to a Britney Spears song (withhold judgement). I experimented with adding lyrics of the song and layering them to create a web of emotion visualizing a moment … that moment when your mind races just before a kiss.

Above: The final version, “The first kiss”

Here’s a look at a few of the newly designed projects below.  I now have a collection of 70+ visual responses on the project website, thisbringsmejoy.com

“The Modern Love column in the NY Times”

“Durham, NC”

“Too Wong Foo! Thanks for Everything Julie Newmar”

“Immersion, the merging of the past, present and future”

“Complexity”

“Dancing solo”

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So I’m coming out of the closet about something … I’m still *technically* in grad school. I’m still an MFA canidate and not an MFA graduate. Details .. details! As much I’ve tired to pack away the last two years and transition into the “real world,” I still have one last push to finish before I can earn that magical piece of paper from Pratt. I’ve spoken in length about my thesis process over the last year  (click on the “thesis” or “Pratt MFA” tabs on the right) and there will be new developments in the coming weeks. I’ve recently begun to panic at the realization that it’s already the middle of September and I still haven’t completed my final project .. so this weekend will be a turning point. Time to take this thesis bun out out of the oven once and for all.

I spent the morning reading 10 new letters I received as part of the Joy Project. My goal this weekend it design my visual responses for this new set of letters. This set is special in that each letter I designed was given to a friend of a friend that already participated in the project. Before I left for Copenhagen, I sent new 18 letters to 9 people. From that group of letters I received 10 back, so that means a 55% response rate. Some of the letters I really love and remind me why I started this project in the first place. For those unfamiliar with the project, I send letters asking participants to list as much moments, experiences and things that personally bring them a sense of joy, delight or happiness. It can be anything, no wrong answers! Each person lists these responses on paper and mail them back to me. I then take these letters and create a visual resposnse. The first 60 of these responses can be found on the project website, thisbringsmejoy.com – Some of my favorite new responses include the following:

I love reading these statements because they make me feel so happy and full of (you guessed it) joy. This serves as the motivation for the creation of my final project. I’ve been intrigued by the medium of newsprint recently and think a newsprint poster or booklet would be a great medium for the message (look – MFA speak!) My idea is to print a fold-out poster as we did for the Pratt MFA show, or a booklet like RISD designed for their 2011 MFA Show. The similarities between our two 2011 MFA shows is pretty interesting to note: we both printed on newsprint, both in Linco, B&W with one spot color (blue Pratt, red RISD), and we both used boxes or an outline as a graphic element. I guess both schools were onto something.

Above & below: The identity promo we created for Pratt’s first Design MFA show this past April.

Above: RIDS’s stacks of newsprint books

Look familiar? I’m not alleging copying – but since our show was first in April, I’m going to say we did it first! 🙂

The design of their book is really beautiful, especially this fold-out poster.

These pictures give a nice glimpse into the form I’d like to use to create my final project. The decision between book or poster will ultimately come down to cost .. as it would cost over $1,500 to print the same size and number of pages as RISD and I can’t spend that much one last project. I’d like to create a typographic piece on newsprint with one color and leave 1,000 of these posters/booklets all over NYC. My hope is that when found, people will go to the website and contribute new joy responses digitally (on the tumblr site or twitter). These responses will then be added to my collection of over 800 ways to experience joy. So that’s where I am today and stay tuned for new developments!

I’ll leave you with one last letter. Enjoy.

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The website for my Pratt MFA Thesis project is finally up and stable! I say stable because I’ve been talking to NameSecure since last week trying to work an IP forwarding issue, but *knock on wood* the site is up and working! I also launched the Twitter account (@thisbringsmejoy) where I’m going to post the individual joy statements and some of the postcards too. I’m hoping this will be a way to engage the public and excite participation with people I don’t know.

Yesterday I mailed back around 40 postcards to their “owners,” as I’m calling them. Each postcard in my exhibition, and on the website, correspond to a specific letter, or a joy statement that repeated again and again (such as champagne, sex, sailing, the sun, etc .. ). I have several extras and I want to mail them to a few people so they can send them to others and help the project grow. Maybe they can each send postcards to 2-3 people they think should participate. Then I’ll design more responses, and make more postcards, which will be mailed … and the project will continue to grow!

I’ve bought so many stamps this semester ..

It makes me sad I won’t have a complete set of front and back postcards anymore, but that’s part of letting go I think. I can either have a project that’s pretty to look and enjoy it myself, or I can release it into the world, and let it live. This also created motivation for me to figure out how to reproduce these cards at a reasonable price. In other exciting news, my friend Nick is participating in this years Barnes & Noble Back to Campus program, which I worked on last year, and he sent me a first look at my sketchbook, which will be in all B&N stores this July/August.

The cover is both embossed and debossed so you can feel the texture of the painted cover. I still haven’t seen the physical thing, but from the picture I’m excited. He said it was displayed on their table with the projects they’re most excited about, SOOO I’m hoping that means it’ll become an “evergreen” item, which means they’ll order higher quantities and it might stay in stores more seasons (which means more money for me!) I may be abroad when these hit stores, so i hope someone can grab me a sketchbook or pencil pouch.

Also this week I visited to the new section of the HighLine park in NYC. The new part opened last week, and it may be more amazing than the first, if that’s even possible. The new section has all these nooks and benches to sit on off the path, that are pretty neat. I’d suggest visiting during a workday, especially in the morning, because the place gets pretty crowded. A week from Friday I’m heading to Copenhagen for 6 weeks to study textile design, I’m sooooo excited. I found a subleaser for my apt, so that takes huge financial pressure off me upon my return in August. I’ll be studying textile design just like Stephanie did last summer, check out her blog here. I’m hoping to spend next week reading her blog and researching textiles and Copenhagen so I can be prepared for my trip abroad. Lots of exciting things coming up.

There were lot so these yellow flowers, cool looking right?

cool dark purple leaves

The trees in the new section are taller, almost like walking through urban woods

I liked this seating area, reminds me of Downtown Durham, NC and the tobacco warehouses

Really awesome futuristic building right on HighLine overlooking the new lawn

One of the seating nooks, when the trees fill in, these will be nice shady areas

In this section, they expose the support beams that hold the structure two stories above the street.

In this picture you can see the new HighLine (foreground), and the remaining original part (background), an physical before and after.
I sort of hope they leave a bit of the original HighLine untouched and natural. It’s cool to see.

 

 

 

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